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Next Japan fishery meeting 'soon': official

TAIPEI -- Taiwan is hoping to hold a third meeting of a Taiwan-Japan fishing commission soon to address issues related to the regulation of fishing operations in their overlapping waters in the East China Sea, an official said Thursday.

“We hope to hold the meeting as soon as possible,” said Lo Koon-tsan, secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations, which is responsible for handling ties with Japan in the absence of diplomatic relations.

The goal of the meeting is to establish fishing order in a designated area of the East China Sea in which Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen are allowed to operate freely, Lo added.

The first meeting took place in May in Taipei, while the second was held Dec. 26 in Tokyo.

During the Dec. 26 meeting, the two sides remained divided on fishing operations in their overlapping waters in the East China Sea, but agreed to continue negotiating on the issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Tokyo talks came after representatives from fishermen's associations from Taiwan and Japan met in Yilan County, eastern Taiwan, for talks earlier in the month about the differences in their fishing methods.

One sticking point of that meeting involved the direction in which fishing lines are deployed and the distance maintained between longline fishing boats while they are operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones.

The Japanese side proposed that the two sides adopt its operating method, which requires fishing boats to set their lines in a north-south direction and to maintain a four-nautical-mile distance between each boat.

The Taiwanese side, which has more fishing boats operating in the area, advocated keeping its traditional approach, which is to deploy lines in an east-west direction and maintain a one-nautical-mile distance between boats.

The Taiwan-Japan fishing commission was established as part of an agreement signed April 10, 2013, by Taiwan and Japan on fishing rights in waters in the East China Sea near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

Under the terms of the April agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,300-square-kilometer area around the disputed Diaoyutai islands, Taiwan's Fisheries Agency said.

That gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530 square kilometers in which they can operate free of harassment by the Japanese authorities, the agency said.

The Diaoyutais, some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972 but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

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